Hospitals, for many, are intrinsically scary. But really, today’s medical centers are some of the most sterile places filled with professionals well-versed in their fields. Year after year, less invasive procedures are created to help people. What used to require extensive surgery can now be performed with tiny incisions — or none at all. What’s truly scary is imagining a time before that was the case.
While The Knick (Series Premiere, 10 p.m. Friday, Cinemax) is a drama, written by Jack Amiel and Michael Begler, its basis is in true medical history with the earliest surgeons at the start of the 20th century.
Director Steven Soderbergh paints a beautifully grotesque picture of New York’s Knickerbocker Hospital, with imagery that leaves viewers covering their eyes … only to peek through their fingers.
The story and tone bring to mind American Horror Story: Asylum, without the supernatural elements (just super-creepy ones).
Clive Owen stars as Dr. John Thackery, the new head of Knickerbocker’s surgery department, who happens to have a penchant for cocaine and brothels. Thackery is driven (perhaps, in part, by the coke) to bring the hospital to the forefront of medical innovation during a time when mortality rates skyrocketed and antibiotics were still years away.
Another troubling issue in America during this time: problematic race relations. In The Knick’s premiere, Thackery struggles with the decision to hire a black assistant chief to join the all-white staff.
Today, these prospects are disturbing, but Thackery approaches these medical and societal roadblocks with excitement and vigor.
The product — through Soderbergh’s eye — is a sight to behold.
WEDNESDAY AUG. 6
The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail (12:30 a.m., Comedy Central) – Worst jobs ever; performances by James Adomian, Chris Hardwick, Marc Maron and Cupcake Wars host Justin Willman (What?).
THURSDAY AUG. 7
Project Runway (9 p.m., Lifetime) – The designers look to the past (childhood photos, old Marie Claire magazines) to predict fashion’s future.
Garfunkel and Oates (Series Premiere, 10 p.m., IFC) – This cute and quirky music/comedy duo (Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci) — named after the second-billed artists of two great American duos — might appear to be a double dose of Zooey “Adorkable” Deschanel, but these two pack a hilarious, raunchy punch. See: “Pregnant Women Are Smug.”
Married (10 p.m., FX) -– Lina and Russ discover that being broke isn’t cool when you’re an adult. Shit.
FRIDAY AUG. 8
Jonah from Tonga (Series Premiere, 10 p.m., HBO) – Chris Lilley is back with another comedic spotlight on one of his beloved characters. Jonah Takalua was first introduced in Summer Heights High as the foul-mouthed bad boy of the school. Back-to-back episodes this week follow Jonah as he moves to Tonga to live with his family, goes to Sydney for school and meets with a youth counselor.
SUNDAY AUG. 10
True Blood (9 p.m., HBO) – Well, we finally got to see Sookie and Bill do it naked again, possibly for the last time, but I am much more concerned with Hoyt! So many questions for him: Can he be un-glamored? What is going on with his too-perfect Alaskan biologist girlfriend? How many minutes into this week’s episode will it take for Jason to have sex with her? I digress. Next up: Eric zeroes in on Sarah; Lala and Lettie Mae try to convince the reverend to drop V with them and search for Tara’s ghost some more. (Why is this happening? There are three episodes left in this entire series.) Violet is definitely going to kill at least one person/fairy/vampire.
The Leftovers (10 p.m., HBO) – Wow, Holy Wayne is for real! Unfortunately he’ll likely take a break this episode, with the focus on Garvey Sr. escaping from the hospital.
TUESDAY AUG. 12
Nathan For You (10:30 p.m., Comedy Central) – Nathan tries to get a taxi company some media attention and defends a hot dog stand’s reputation.
CONTACT JAC KERN: email@example.com or @jackern
Correction: Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart premieres at 9 p.m. Monday, Aug. 18 on HBO.
Before the sensationalized trials of Casey Anthony and Jodi Arias, there was Pamela Smart. This documentary focuses not just on her court case (she was convicted of conspiring to kill her husband) but the media frenzy that surrounded it. In 1991, Smart’s trial was the first fully televised case, paving the way for today’s “must-see” court circuses.